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  • Writer's pictureEmmy Graham

Kundalini Yoga Amidst the Changing Stages of Life

If there’s anything consistent about my Kundalini Yoga practice, it’s that it is inevitable that it will change.  Since my first Kundalini Yoga class 25 years ago, my relationship with this yoga has been ebbing and flowing along with the changes that have accompanied each stage of my life.  

I found Kundalini Yoga when I was 36, where a weekly Monday night class in Harvard Square, near to where I lived in Cambridge, MA, was plenty. That class was powerful and potent and life changing. My walk home after class through Harvard Yard was more of a quiet, soft, slow, contemplative stroll, where I felt wrapped in a safe, healing, comforting cocoon.  Coming in the door of my apartment, I went straight to bed and slept soundly.

Eventually, I added a few, short warm-ups like spinal flex and cat-cow to my mornings before heading off to work.  I felt like I had been handed a gift, for doing just a little of this yoga in the morning gave me such a boost.

I became a teacher the year I turned 40, completing a 21-day emersion class in New Mexico where we were tested and tried physically, mentally and spiritually.  Initially, I only wanted to learn more about the yoga and deepen my practice. My grueling teacher training forced me to call on my own grit. The training had hammered me into something that I hoped would be a teacher, because once I finished the training, I knew teaching was what I was meant to do.  As teachers, we were told that a daily practice was essential.  In those days my sadhana consisted of kriyas and meditations that were challenging – after all I was physically strong and I liked building my physical and mental strengths and capacities.  During my 40s, I built a very physical relationship with the kriyas; I got to know them intimately on a deeply physical level.

Pregnancy brought a temporary halt to this physical enthusiasm and was its own magical time.  While I was pregnant, I entered a state of ecstasy and bliss. I did less of the physical yoga, but I easily fell into meditation and meditated daily, often for hours at a time.  It was an experience of vastness beyond time and space that I’ve never been able to replicate since the birth of my daughter. 

Around age 50, my practice morphed once again.  Having completed all five of the Level II teacher training courses, I became more attuned to the energetic effects of the kriyas and meditations. In diving more deeply into the teachings, I developed a better understanding of myself.  I became more sensitive to and aware of my chakras, my psyche, and my 10 bodies (9 of which are energy bodies) and began an intimate relationship with them.  I developed a new subtle attunement to the depth and complexity of myself.  During my 50s, I practiced more mantra.  A good portion of my daily sadhana was given over to chanting, and I often chanted for several hours every day.  The positive and perhaps miraculous life changes that occurred for me during this period are too complicated to outline here - my mantra practice opened the door to the creative capacity and healing capability of the vibration of the sacred sound current. 

This year, I will turn 61 and once again, my practice is transforming.  As I enter these elder years, I can no longer maintain the dynamic physical strength I once had in my 40s.    Something as basic as spinal flex, sends an enormous surge of energy through my body.  Kriyas that I once considered easy, leave me altered and gratefully resting deeply during the long relaxation.  My body is slowing down, my physical strength is declining, and I am learning to cultivate grace and self-acceptance with all of the physical changes.  My new mantra regarding this yoga is ‘a little goes a long way.’  These are the years for awakening the Sage within and stepping into the Wise Elder.  I am recognizing my limitations: that I can keep my body strong and healthy, but I’ll never be 40 (or 20) again, and that’s ok.  I can hopefully, age gracefully and maintain a good quality of life with the help of this yoga practice.  As my physical body declines however, my other 9 bodies are very capable.  In practicing yoga and meditation, I am able to utilize them, enhance them, strengthen them and converse with them.  At age 60, my yoga practice is shorter, my meditation experience is richer, and the relaxation is deeply embraced.  

This yoga never changes: the kriyas remain the same, the teachings remain the same. It is we who change.  I’ve been in a relationship with Kundalini Yoga since the first day we met and it has consistently served me throughout every subsequent phase of my life.  How do we approach our yoga practice in our 50s, 60s, 70s, beyond?  How do we age well and harness our inner wisdom, which is our birthright?  I’ve been exploring these questions in my own practice, and am offering an 8-week class series on healthy ageing with Kundalini Yoga. It is geared for folks aged 50+, but since good habits start young, it’s open to all ages.  I hope you will feel inspired to join me.  

Here's a meditation to help carry you through the unknown:

Emmy Graham is a Harvard-trained epidemiologist who has found Kundalini Yoga to be a powerful technology for supporting our physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness.  She has been teaching Kundalini Yoga for over 20 years.


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